49 New COVID Cases Confirmed as Humboldt's ICU Capacity Drops


Humboldt County Public Health confirmed 49 new COVID-19 cases today, bringing the county's total to 2,220.

On the vaccine side, the county is moving into the next phase, starting with those age 75 and older. (Read more about the process here.)

“We’re vaccinating groups in tandem,” County Health Officer Ian Hoffman said in a release. “We will continue to work with our health care partners to message when and where people can receive their vaccine.”

Meanwhile, Public Health, which is having so much trouble contacting some positive cases that it has added an "unknown" designation to its categories of transmission type on its dashboard, is pleading with those who receive a positive test to cooperate with contact tracers to aid in slowing the disease's spread.

Cases in which Public Health is unable to contact the positive case or the person is unwilling to cooperate will be classified as "unknown" moving forward. Other designations are "travel-acquired," "community transmission" and "under investigation."

On Tuesday, as Humboldt County recorded its 24th COVID-related death and a pair of new hospitalizations, the state moved Humboldt County back into the most restrictive purple "widespread" tier as officials have warned would happen for weeks.

While it took Humboldt County 290 days to confirm its first 1,000 COVID-19 cases, the next 1,000 came in just 35 amid a local, statewide and national surge officials say has been fueled by pandemic fatigue, holiday gatherings and the onset of cold, winter weather. This week has already seen 190 cases confirmed on the heels of a record 269 last week.

In its press release, Public Health is also urging all local healthcare providers to sign up to be vaccinated, saying the county can't move on to its next priority vaccination group until it finishes with healthcare workers, who can sign up to schedule a vaccination through this link.

To date, Humboldt County has confirmed 2,220 cases, with 77 hospitalizations and 24 confirmed COVID-19 related deaths. Fifteen Humboldt County residents are currently hospitalized, according to the county's dashboard, including four under intensive care. Humboldt County's ICU capacity is listed at 14.3 percent.

The county dashboard lists 1,660 people as having "recovered" from the virus locally, though that just means they are no longer contagious and does not account for long-term health impacts, which local healthcare workers have told the Journal can be substantial, even in previously health patients.

Last week, the state issued a health order that halted all elective surgeries to make more room for intensive care unit capacity in regions where hospital ICU capacity is at 0 percent. Those hospitals also now have the ability to transfer patients in and out of other regions, including the Northern California region.

The order doesn't currently affect Humboldt County but could very soon.

The state also issued an updated travel advisory strongly discouraging all non-essential travel and urging anyone returning from non essential, out-of-state travel needs to self-quarantine for a minimum of 10 days upon their return.

With the move back to the purple or "widespread" tier, Humboldt businesses and organizations will again face increased restrictions, with even greater ones looming on the horizon.

The state’s stay home order, which divides California into five regions, is triggered throughout the region when its commutative available hospital intensive care unit capacity drops below 15 percent, as has already occurred in the rest of the state.

The data has not been updated since Tuesday when the state reported the Northern California region had a combined 17.6 percent capacity. The next update is expected tomorrow. If implemented locally, the stay home order will temporarily close bars, wineries, personal service salons, hair salons and barbershops, while retail stores will be limited to 20 percent capacity and restaurants will be limited to take-out and delivery only. Schools that have a waiver will be allowed to remain open to in-person instruction and critical infrastructure will remain open. The order also temporarily prohibits all non-essential travel.

In Humboldt County, healthcare workers have already said there are emergency room patients who have been waiting for days for transfers out of the area for specialized care because hospitals throughout the state don't have available beds.

Today's Humboldt County cases were confirmed after 383 samples were processed.

While California has a case rate of 91.7 daily cases confirmed per 100,000 residents with a test positivity rate of 17.6 percent in data released today, Humboldt has a case rate of 25.2 cases per 100,000 (up from 16.3 in last week's report) and a 6.5 percent positivity rate, also an increase.

Meanwhile, the county's Joint Information Center is urging locals to get tested, calling it "one of the most helpful things county residents can do for the community at large," because it allows Public Health to catch cases early and limit spread. The state-run OptumServe testing site at Redwood Acres Fairgrounds in Eureka is open seven days a week and no-cost appointments can be made by clicking here or calling (888) 634-1123.

The Humboldt County Data Dashboard includes hospitalization rates by age group, death rates by age group and case totals by ZIP code, the latter of which are reported in "a range of 0 to 5 for case count until the area surpasses 5 total cases," according to the county. After that threshold has been reached in a ZIP code, the exact number will be included.

Basics of COVID-19

The California Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control, state that symptoms of novel coronavirus include cough and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, or at least two of the following: fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat or a new loss of taste or smell.

Emergency warning signs needing immediate medical attention include difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to awaken, and bluish lips or face.

In an emergency situation:

Call ahead to the emergency room or inform the 911 operator of the possibility of a COVID-19 infection and, if possible, put on a face mask.

Symptoms or possible exposure:

In the case of a possible exposure with symptoms — fever and cough or shortness of breath — contact your doctor’s office or the county Department of Health and Human Services, which has a hotline that can be reached during business hours at [email protected] or at (707) 441-5000. Residents seeking medical advice or questions about testing are asked to contact Public Health at [email protected] or at (707) 445-6200.

St. Joseph Health has also set up a virtual assessment tool as an aid to assessing risk factors for contracting the illness, which can be found here.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has started a rumor-control webpage that can be found here.

For the Journal's latest COVID stories, updates and information resources, click here.

Read the county's release below:
A total of 2,220 county residents have tested positive for COVID-19, after 49 new cases were reported today.

In vaccine news, today the county moved into Phase 1B-tier 1, starting with people age 75 and older.

Public Health Director Michele Stephens said, “We continue to work through the tiers in our plan and are now opening up to people 75 and older since there is sufficient vaccine to do so. As we receive additional vaccine, we’ll open up additional tiers.”

Humboldt County Health Officer Dr. Ian Hoffman said as Public Health wraps up one phase, it’s preparing for the next.

“We’re vaccinating groups in tandem,” he said. “We will continue to work with our health care partners to message when and where people can receive their vaccine.” Additional information about how people 75 and older can get vaccinated will be made available in the weeks to come.

Local health care providers will reach out with more information to their patients age 75 and over.

For the most recent COVID-19 information, visit cdc.gov or cdph.ca.gov. Local information is available at humboldtgov.org or during business hours by contacting [email protected] or calling 707-441-5000.

Local COVID-19 vaccine information: humboldtgov.org/vaccineinfo

Humboldt County COVID-19 Data Dashboard: humboldtgov.org/dashboard

Follow us on Facebook: @HumCoCOVID19 Instagram: @HumCoCOVID19 Twitter: @HumCoCOVID19 Humboldt Health Alert: humboldtgov.org/HumboldtHealthAlert

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